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Golden Nuggets: Can Cal's Non-Revenue Sports Become Self-Sufficient?

After initially being cut by Cal, rugby, baseball, lacrosse, and men/women's gymnastics had to find a path to self-sufficiency or face being cut within 10 years. The latest financial numbers suggest that is going to be an extreme challenge for some sports. While rugby saved $4 million by dropping to club status, the rest face more treacherous paths to financial health.

Upon reinstatement, each team agreed to find a path to financial independence in the next seven to 10 years, a rare - and possibly unattainable - demand in the football-first world of collegiate fundraising. Although Cal's football program routinely brings in millions each year, that's certainly not the case for sports like men's gymnastics.

Nationally, men's gymnastics programs average $33,000 in annual revenue and $540,000 in expenses.

"If we raise $50,000 in a year," McNeill said, "that's not nearly enough." Because if his program is still running a deficit nine years from now, it will be cut again - this time for good.
In 2011, the lacrosse team drew more than 100 fans to its home games twice. Once, the team drew 48. Men's and women's gymnastics don't list their attendances, but the small pockets of fans rarely add up to more than 150.

Now, somehow, they need to start raking in tens of thousands of dollars per year to stay afloat.

In 2009-10, only 22 of the 228 Division I public schools covered their expenses. The top moneymaker was Oregon, which made $41.8 million, a number it called an anomaly because of an unusually large private donation. The runner-up was Alabama, which made $26.6 million. In comparison, Cal's 2010 financial records show it brought in $69,345,926 and spent $69,345,912 for a grand total of $14 in profit.

For years, nonrevenue sports at Cal racked up expenses without making the money to pay off the debt, so the athletic department borrowed from the university to make up the difference. It was hardly a sustainable model, especially with the athletic department having to cover the costs of a $321 million stadium renovation and the $153 million Simpson Center, along with paying off outstanding debts.

The $14 in profit was enough for Cal to rank among the top 6% of Division I schools nationwide. These numbers should be more pleasant once Pac-12 Network funding begins stuffing our pockets. Hopefully some of that can protect our more vulnerable sports. More links after the jump.